The enduring image of the Sunderland revival is that of the manager hugging the life out of his captain after a breathtaking victory over Manchester City at the Stadium of Light. Martin O’Neill has breathed new life into Lee Cattermole, just in time for tomorrow’s fourth-round FA Cup tie with Middlesbrough – where Cattermole was born, raised and began his football education.
There has been praise, endless words of encouragement, and a significant improvement, but within the velvet glove has been the iron fist.
O’Neill disclosed on the eve of the North-east derby that he had fined Cattermole for missing a day’s training. He was also coy in terms of accepting that the 23-year-old’s disciplinary problems are now resolved.
“Early on, he had a bit of a problem,” O’Neill said. “He missed training because he was in Scotland, my first week there. He was unable to get back and so he incurred a fine. Then he had another ongoing problem, so I thought this was really great.
“But since those early hiccups, he’s been fantastic. Do we think we’ve helped him in his discipline? I wouldn’t be convinced about that yet at this minute. He’s picked up eight bookings this season, two away from a ban. The months ahead will be too long [to avoid] that and even with the best effort possible, then you’re picking up two bookings between now and some time in April.
“No, I don’t accept that [it’s part of his game]. I think you can help, there are times when he’s made challenges that have given us all a lift, and other times when he can definitely avoid it. I wouldn’t want to prevent that wholeheartedness and courage, which is terrific. I appreciate what he does, but there are times when he could be more careful; I’m hoping that will be something he can learn. However, he’s been a fantastic influence and I couldn’t have asked for much more from him.”Reuse content